Ancient Forests: Rage Over Trees

Ancient Forest: Rage Over Trees

Ancient Forest: Rage Over Trees


In 1989, Chris Palmer and Jim Lipscombe made Ancient Forests: Rage Over Trees for the National Audubon Society and Turner Broadcasting. It was hosted by actor Paul Newman and highlighted a protracted battle over logging on publicly owned forests in the United States. At issue were 3 million acres of ancient, or old-growth, forests in the Northwest that were being clear-cut at the rate of 60,000 acres a year-and the fate of the 30,000 workers who made their living by cutting them.

When advance word got out about the film’s content, it led to a logging-industry boycott of the corporate sponsors, all of whom pulled their support for the film in the face of big-industry intimidation. But Ted Turner broadcast the film anyway. To him, and to those like Palmer and Lipscombe who had created the film, conservation was more important than making money. Articles about the controversy appeared in major newspapers all across the country.

Positive results:

The film played a pivotal role in convincing the U.S. Forest Service not to log a beautiful Oregon watershed called Opal Creek, full of centuries-old fir, hemlock, and cedar. Audubon and Turner lost a lot of money, but saved a forest. Thanks to the film, Opal Creek was eventually designated as a wilderness area and thus firmly protected from logging.

Other Achievements:

In 1993, author David Seideman wrote a lengthy book of investigative journalism called Showdown at Opal Creek in which he spent several years interviewing all the key people involved in the controversy. Seideman’s book made the case convincingly that it was the documentary Ancient Forests: Rage Over Trees which was seminal in leading to the federal legislation protecting Opal Creek. It wouldn’t have happened without the film.


Host: Paul Newman
Producer: James Lipscomb
Producer: John Lipscomb
Executive Producer: Chris Palmer

Email: Web:
National Audubon Society:
Turner Broadcasting System:
Ted Turner:

Online references:

By Jason Peters

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